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Why Are HBO and Melissa McCarthy Raising Money for Exodus Cry, an Anti-Abortion Group?


To promote Superintelligence, Melissa McCarthy’s latest movie about saving the world from an A.I. designed to sound like James Corden, HBO Max plans to donate $20,000 to a conservative evangelical organization—whose founder has called abortion a “holocaust” and homosexuality “an unspeakable offense to God”—that is dedicated to abolishing the commercial sex industry.

The contribution comes as part of a 20-day campaign from HBO Max tied to World Kindness Day and the release of Superintelligence on Thanksgiving called “20 Days of Kindness.” The fundraising event, which launched Tuesday, will highlight a cause each day and encourage viewers to donate, with HBO Max kicking in a daily $20,000 of their own.

“We decided to have some fun and do some good as we spread some kindness to this world,” the campaign’s website reads. “That’s why we are giving away a Tesla Model X (Carol’s ride from Superintelligence) and a virtual hang with Melissa McCarthy herself to raise funds for a few incredible organizations.”

One of those organizations is Exodus Cry, an evangelical group that The Daily Beast has reported extensively about, which presents itself as an anti-sex-trafficking organization, but, per the mission statement laid out in their 2018 tax returns, ultimately aims to abolish sex work entirely. The nonprofit emerged out of the far-right conservative church the International House of Prayer (their acronym is indeed IHOP), whose founder, one-time Ted Cruz endorser Mike Bickle, has claimed that “gay people would face “flaming missiles of the Evil One” and that Adolf Hitler was a “hunter” sent by God to punish the Jews.

Former IHOP member Benjamin Nolot founded Exodus Cry in 2007, presenting it as an apolitical, if deeply religious group dedicated to ending sex-trafficking worldwide. They produced documentaries about prostitution and the supposed dangers of hookup culture, one of which wound up on Netflix. In truth, the organization has spent years lobbying Washington to pass laws criminalizing the purchase of sex. Most recently, they launched the campaign #Traffickinghub to shut down Pornhub. The campaign was co-sponsored by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a non-profit formerly known as Morality in Media—the “nation’s loudest voice against adult pornography” in the early 2000s.

Many of the other beneficiaries are more familiar. When the campaign started on Tuesday, it highlighted the STEM nonprofit Girls Who Code. Wednesday, the recipient was Team Rubicon, an organization that employs veterans to help relieve humanitarian crises. Future days will involve Planned Parenthood, National Coalition for the Homeless, Human Rights Campaign, and Teach for America, to name a few.

It remains unclear how the anti-abortion organization wound up on HBO Max’s, which also includes the women’s health non-profit Planned Parenthood. The streaming service, McCarthy, and Nolot did not respond to requests for comment.


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